Losing 50 to 100 strands of hair a day is normal. However, if you notice more than usual shedding, you might wonder: can hair loss be a sign of something serious?
While hair loss is usually nothing to worry about, sometimes, it can be indicative of an underlying health problem. For instance, hair loss can be a symptom of an autoimmune disorder, skin condition, digestive problem, nutritional deficiency, and hormonal imbalance.
It’s even more problematic if you have started losing a lot of hair suddenly. In any of these instances, it’s a good idea to know what might be happening so you can seek early treatment.
When Is Hair Loss A Sign Of Something Serious?
Hair loss may be a symptom of a larger problem if it is accompanied by any of these symptoms:
You can experience fatigue and hair loss as a result of:
- Stress – One of the physical effects of stress (emotional or physical) is tiredness. And stress can trigger a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. And if you’re experiencing significant stress, you might even have chronic telogen effluvium.
- Nutritional deficiency (iron, zinc, vitamin D, B12) – Not getting enough nutrients in your diet can make you feel weak and tired. Additionally, it can end up causing hair loss.
- Coeliac disease – It’s an autoimmune condition that is triggered by the consumption of gluten in the diet. Because it affects the absorption of different nutrients in the diet, it can not only cause fatigue but also make you lose your hair.
Other autoimmune diseases – According to a study published in the Frontiers in Immunology, “debilitating fatigue” is a common complaint among people who suffer from autoimmune diseases (like lupus, lichen planopilaris, and graves’). Additionally, these are also associated with hair loss (alopecia areata, for instance).
It’s important to keep in mind that these problems don’t just cause fatigue and hair loss. They are usually accompanied by other symptoms as well.
Abnormal Hair Growth
A loss of hair on the scalp, along with abnormal hair growth on the face and body, can also indicate a health issue.
For instance, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can worsen hair loss due to androgenetic alopecia. However, it also results in “virilization” due to the excess androgens. One consequence of this is the growth of excess hair on the face.
Other than that, androgen-secreting tumours are also associated with androgenetic alopecia and virilization at the same time.
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is another condition that can increase the level of androgens in the body. And it has also been linked with androgenetic alopecia and hirsutism.
Therefore, abnormal hair growth elsewhere in the body can indicate a hormonal imbalance, which is why you must get yourself checked.
If weight changes are accompanied by hair loss, you may have a thyroid issue.
The thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism, so when this balance is disturbed, weight fluctuations and hair loss can occur.
An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), for instance, speeds up metabolism. That, in turn, causes weight loss.
An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), on the other hand, slows down the metabolism, which can cause weight gain.
Of course, these are not the only symptoms of thyroid dysfunction.
In either case, you can experience hair loss due to telogen effluvium or even alopecia areata.
If your skin feels itchy and you’re losing hair, it might be because of a skin problem, such as:
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Tinea capitis
- Pityriasis amiantacea
You might also notice the formation of scaly patches on your scalp. Hair loss is usually caused by itching, and once you get treated, your hair will probably begin to grow again.
Other than that, itchiness and hair loss can also occur due to an allergic reaction from a chemical or an insect bite.
Burning sensation on the scalp, along with hair loss, can also be a sign of a more serious health issue.
It may be a sign of a psychiatric problem (OCD, anxiety, depression), infection or a skin problem. You may also experience this if you’re exposed to irritants in hair products (shampoos, sprays, soap, conditioners, fragrances).
Although rare, hair loss can occur due to a type of cancer called Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This cancer affects the lymphatic system, which is, in turn, a part of the body’s immune system.
The most common symptom of this disease is the swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin.
And a case study published in the International Journal of Trichology reported that hair loss in Hodgkin’s lymphoma could also occur (either directly by the disease or indirectly due to the immune system’s reaction to cancer).
Therefore, if you have swelling around the lymph nodes and you also have fatigue, weight loss, night sweats, fever, excessive sweating, and, in rare cases, hair loss, it could indicate Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Hair loss is a normal part of our hair growth cycle. It’s also something that everyone experiences due to ageing itself, which is inevitable.
However, sometimes, hair can be a sign of a more serious health problem, both physical and psychological. It can be accompanied by many other symptoms, depending on the underlying cause.
Therefore, if you notice anything abnormal with your hair growth, you should consult a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.